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The lowdown on changes to BC’s environmental laws

14 April, 2014

The current session of the BC Legislature has kept us quite busy.  While we’ve had occasion to discuss several bills in our Environmental Law Alert, we haven’t even mentioned a host of others that we are following with interest.  This session, the BC government has introduced a whole series of amendments and new statutes with environmental implications – some good, some not good – and many of them with little or no public consultation.  We have significant concerns about a number of these bills, and wish that the government would take the time to consult the general public, First Nations and stakeholders when making these types of changes.  We believe that such consultations do result in better laws.

The current session of the BC Legislature has kept us quite busy.  While we’ve had occasion to discuss several bills in our Environmental Law Alert, we haven’t even mentioned a host of others that we are following with interest.  This session, the BC government has introduced a whole series of amendments and new statutes with environmental implications – some good, some not good – and many of them with little or no public consultation. 

Bill 24 – Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act: Undermining BC’s Food Security

10 April, 2014

Following hot on the heels of the controversial Park Amendment Act (Bill 4), the BC government has introduced another bill that would open up some of the province’s most publicly valuable lands – in this case, its farmlands – to industrial development. Bill 24, the Agricultural Land Commission Amendment Act, weakens legal protection on some of the best of BC's scarce agricultural lands. If passed, Bill 24 would allow decision makers to prioritize short-term gains over the long-term goal of protecting farmland and food security for most of the province’s ALR lands.

Read on to learn more, or you can use our handy on-line letter to tell the BC government: hands off our food security

Following hot on the heels of the controversial Park Amendment Act (Bill 4), the BC government has introduced another bill that would open up some of the province’s most publicly valuable lands – in this case, its farmlands – to industrial development.

The strengths and weaknesses of the new Water Sustainability Act

14 March, 2014

The BC Government introduced its long-promised Water Sustainability Act in the BC Legislature on Tuesday.  As we said when the government started its last round of public consultation on the proposed Act:

Water, and how we treat our water, is one of those fundamental issues that touches on so much of who we are, what we do, and how we build our economy.  A weak Water Sustainability Act could fail to deal with current unsustainable and inefficient water use, and could lock in these problems for years to come.  A strong Act could address past over-use, and wasteful use, of water and protect drinking water and fish from over-use, poor oil and gas, logging or mining practices, and other threats.

The BC Government introduced its long-promised Water Sustainability Act in the BC Legislature on Tuesday.  As we said when the government started its last round of public consultation on the proposed Act:

Urgent: Act now to protect Canada’s wild fish

14 March, 2014

Since 2012, the Canadian government has systematically gutted its laws protecting fish. First, it amended the federal Fisheries Act, dramatically weakening protection of fish and fish habitat. Then, it lifted the moratorium on fish farms in BC, opening the door to a massive expansion of aquaculture. Now, it wants to pass regulations that would allow the Environment and Fisheries Ministers to permit fish farms and industry to pollute our waters, harming fish with impunity. We have provided a letter that you can customize and send.

Click here to jump directly to the form and send a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Since 2012, the Canadian government has systematically gutted its laws protecting fish. First, it amended the federal Fisheries Act, dramatically weakening protection of fish and fish habitat.

Advisory: #Law students argue court appeal in x-Canada #Twitter contest

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#Lawstudents argue court appeal on #mining & #indigenous rights in X-Canada #Twitter Contest on Feb 28th at 10am PST: www.wcel.org/twtmoot

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The world is better when charities are heard

7 February, 2014

You may have heard our sister organization, the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation, mentioned last night on CBC’s Power and Politics; Power and Politics discussed whether current audits of environmental charities were politically driven. In the current political climate it is important to remember that charities have an important, and entirely legal, role to play in public (even political) discourse and that Canadians have benefited enormously from advocacy work by charities connected to their core purposes of protecting the environment, human health, and other important Canadian values.

You may have heard our sister organization, the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation, mentioned last night on CBC’s Power and Politics.  We understand that a government source tipped Evan Solomon to the fact that the Research Foundation, along with several other environmental charities, have been or are being audited by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and Power and Politics discussed whether these audits were politically driven. 

Some applause for administrative penalties

4 February, 2014

A current BC Ministry of Environment public consultation on "administrative penalties" under the Environmental Management Act and the Integrated Pest Management Act is a good thing for environmental enforcement in BC.  Administrative penalties fill a gap between the government's main enforcement tools - charges and tickets.  They give officials within the Ministry of Environment the authority to decide on and impose penalties in the course of their own “administration” of the Act – without needing to turn to courts.  Unlike tickets, the penalties can be significant, but can also be tailored to the individual circumstance.  Since they don’t need to involve complicated, expensive and scarce court resources, they are more likely to be used by the Ministry of Environment. However, we'd like to see the government's regulations and policies on administrative penalties include minimum penalties for some offences and ensure that polluters know that they are certain to face stiff penalties if they break the law. The government consultation continues until February 21st, 2014.

Before your eyes glaze over, let me explain why a current BC Ministry of Environment public consultation on Administrative Penalties under the Environmental Management Act and the Integrated Pest Management Act (IPMA) matters – and is a good thing for environmental enforcement in BC.  However, we will also touch on ways to strengthen the environmental protection offered by these flexible tools.  The government consultation continues until February 21st, 2014.

Canadians have a right to know about fracking, tar sands chemicals

17 January, 2014

Canadians may soon know more about the chemicals being used to extract bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law and our colleagues at Environmental Defence and the Association Québécoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA).  But, unless the federal government can be persuaded to drop it’s narrow interpretation of pollution disclosure rules, Environment Canada won’t be requiring oil and gas companies to provide information about what chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This means that most Canadians will have little to no knowledge of the potentially harmful and toxic chemicals being pumped into the ground in the fracking process, The federal government is consulting with the public until February 8th, 2014.

Canadians may soon know more about the chemicals being used to extract bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands, thanks to West Coast Environmental Law and our colleagues at Environmental Defence and the Association Québécoise de Lutte Contre la Pollution Atmosphérique (AQLPA)

Three New Year’s resolutions for the Earth

6 January, 2014

The beginning of the year is a good time for planning, setting goals.  And with 2014 shaping up to be an important year for environmentally minded Canadians, here, briefly, are our top 3 resolutions for the coming year.

The beginning of the year is a good time for planning, setting goals.  And with 2014 shaping up to be an important year for environmentally minded Canadians, here, briefly, are our top 3 resolutions for the coming year. 

Forestry in BC – few inspections, low consequences

20 December, 2013

We’ve reviewed the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Compliance and Enforcement Annual Reports from 1998 to 2012.  And what we've found raises a whole lot of questions - dramatic declines in inspections and in the fines imposed on the forest industry, but stable levels of enforcement action as a whole - what's going on?

[Update, 23 January 2014 - We have just posted further analysis of this data, examining the extent to which the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has shifted compliance and enforcement actions away from companies that hold large-scale logging rights, and onto smaller operators.]

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